Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum: it’s really weird.

“I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be.” – Noah Purifoy

Nestled in a corner of the desert, down a worn, bumpy dirt road in Joshua Tree, California, sits an outdoor museum that is interesting and very unique. Located at 63030 Blair Lane, it’s hours are simply “sun up to sundown”. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and in all honestly, it wasn’t to mine. However, art is subjective, and what one dislikes, another loves. I believe in being respectful, yet honest about my travel experiences, and while I may not be a large blog, I still believe in sharing my travel truth – whatever that may be.

The Castle.

And for the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, my truth is that I was left feeling very underwhelmed and confused. In pictures the “exhibits” look intriguing and interesting. However, up close and personal, it kind of just looks like junk glued together. Again, I know art is subjective and can be abstract, and I simply did not understand it. On the flip side, many will love this museum and find it really intriguing, interesting, and cool.

Tire Welcome Sign.
The Toilet Sculpture.

Whichever category you fall in, I still suggest giving this museum a visit if you are in the area. Only a short, 15-minute drive from the entrance of the gates to Joshua Tree National Park, it’s completely free and entirely outdoors. There is a donation box front and center, however. There are no labels or names on any of the exhibits and you kind of just meander around with really no rhyme or reason. When we arrived around 4pm and in total, about 4 other people were there with us, with a family arriving as we were leaving around 4:45pm.

Bicycle Hut.
On The Castle.

Since the exhibits are nameless, I will give them my own names. Some that stood out to me were – Tire Welcome Sign, TV Land, Bicycle Hut, The Castle, the Patriotic Toilets, the Toilet Sculpture, Silo Thing, Tower of Chairs, Chicken Shack, Bowling Ball Newton’s Pendulum, the Metal Sticks, Creep Mickey Mouse, Tire Triangle, Shack Hut, and Abstract Trash Pile. The only one with an actual name is Adrian’s Little Theater.

Tip: Pick up a booklet with map at the donation box. Hopefully, it will be stocked when you’re there. It’s not super helpful in figuring out which exhibit is which, but it is useful. Another tip is to research the museum online before attending. You will be able to read about each exhibit which will contribute to your understanding. I will link the official website further down.

On The Castle.

As stated in the name, it was created by Noah Purifoy (1917 – 2004), who was known not only for this outdoor art museum, but also for his work in Watts, California. He is the co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center, which is why I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the outdoor museum that much. I’ve been to the Watts Towers, albeit years ago, and I really liked it, thinking it was so crazy and cool looking. Purifoy started the museum in 1989 after moving to the Mojave Desert from Los Angeles. It took him years to build it to what it is today, and he continued creating and building until he passed away in 2004 at the age of 89. Since his passing, the museum is maintained and preserved by the Noah Purifoy Foundation.

Bowling Ball Newton’s Pendulum.
Patriotic Toilets.
The Chicken Shack.

Official website link:

Important note: I would not advise wearing sandals or flip flops to the museum. As mentioned, it’s 100% outdoors, comprised of sand and not packed dirt. There is no concrete or stone paths. Also, there are no restrooms. If you need to use the restroom, I strongly suggest going elsewhere before coming to the museum. Otherwise, you will have to use the “restroom” by one of the nearest Yucca trees, if you catch my drift.

TV Land.

Abstract Trash Pile.

Overall, I think the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum is worth a visit if you are ever in the Joshua Tree or Twenty-nine Palms areas. It’s not hard to find and my GPS took us right to it. If you are a true art lover and can appreciate abstract art, it’s perfect for you! If you aren’t, but are curious about abstract art, it’s also, probably, perfect for you. My 4-year-old enjoyed it, because to her it was a bunch of really big and crazy looking things, so I don’t think kids would be bored if you brought them. And if you go near sunset, you can get some really pretty photos!

2 thoughts on “Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum: it’s really weird.

  1. That’s definitely an odd setup! And Joshua Tree is the right kind of place for strange desert art. I’ll have to swing by on my next time through.
    Do you know if he left sculptures elsewhere in the desert?

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